Whew, what an offseason it's been, eh?
But as Christmas approaches, silly season looks to be slowing down — barring any sort of unforeseen driver or crew chief change. (We've certainly had a couple of those, haven't we?) There's only one officially open competitive ride, and that's the No. 43, which is now devoid of sponsorship because of Best Buy's move to Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards and Roush Fenway Racing.
Given that the Red Bull cars aren't coming back, now's your chance to break into NASCAR — all you have to do is "merge" with the remains of the team and acquire their locked-in starting position for the Daytona 500.
But you need a driver. Sponsorship isn't an issue, because since this is a hypothetical, you just won the lottery and want to self-fund your team. You want a driver with considerable Sprint Cup experience and a "proven winner." There are plenty of those out there. However, for the purposes of this hypothetical, Kurt Busch isn't an option, because, quite frankly, we know you'd likely pick him.
That means you've got three drivers to choose from. Who are you taking?
David Ragan: Ragan is the youngest of your options (he'll be 26 when the season starts) and he's driven five full seasons for one of the best teams in the sport in Roush. In those five years, he's gone from a "dart without feathers" at Martinsville to victory lane at Daytona. However, that Daytona win was the only time he's won in the Sprint Cup Series, and there's just something about his time at Roush that seems unfulfilled.
David Reutimann: Rooty has two Cup wins on his resume, but he's also your oldest option. He'll turn 41 in March. He also struggled in 2011 at Michael Waltrip Racing, finishing 28th in the points after finishing 16th and 18th the two previous years. Was the equipment at MWR just not as good this year, or was there another factor?
Brian Vickers: Vickers also has two Cup wins to his credit, but finished 25th in the standings last year after returning from the blood clot issue that sidelined him after 11 races in 2010. Vickers is also the only driver you're considering that's made the Chase, when he did so with Red Bull in 2009. But you may also want to consider how far you want to take this self-funding thing. Vickers got into a few tiffs at the end of 2011 and if revenge arises, you're going to have a high fabrication bill.
So, who you got? Drop us a line in the comments. Or if you really do have the money to start a team, shoot us an email. We've always wanted to be part of a pit crew.